Module 1: Lesson 2
Types Of Stress (10 min.)
> There are different types of stress categorized by type and frequency
It’s crazy that we can reference both a work project and a death of a loved one as being “stressful”. They are two totally different events with a huge difference in severity and yet both can be referenced with the same word.
While we don’t have unique terms for each kind of stress, we do have a few general categories:
This is pretty straightforward. These are things that change us physically and usually come from our external environment. It’s when you strain your lower back trying to lift that big Costco pack of bottled water. Or, when you suffer from dreaded seasonal allergies.
This is the most common category. It can be triggered by our external world, such as arguments with your significant other or an overbearing workload. Or internally, such as low levels of self-esteem, short temper or perceived threats.
This is physical stress on a much larger scale. It’s when your body is in intense pain for longer periods of time. It’s the reconstructive surgery from a car accident, head/brain injuries from sports, etc.
Each of these categories of stress can be further classified by how often they happen:
This is the most common frequency of stress. It’s short-term stress from individual one-off triggers. Once the event passes, the stress goes away. It's when you’re rushing to get to the airport in time to catch a flight. Once you’ve cleared security and are at the gate, you’re relieved and your stress fades.
This is the same type of stress as acute but on a more frequent basis. This is when stress repeats itself on a daily basis for an extended period. It’s the everyday burdensome tasks that seem to go for weeks before getting any relief.
Constant stress that goes on for months at a time and year after year is chronic. In really bad cases, it can go on for decades. It’s the long-term frictional marriages or the never-ending struggle to climb out of extreme poverty.
The combination of these categories and classifications covers most types of stress.
The most common stress being acute/episodic mental stress. It affects millions of people globally every single day.
Different Strokes For Different Folks
However, all of those millions of people will not experience the same stressor in the same exact way. Each person will react differently and will have varying stress responses.
In fact, an extreme example would be where one specific stressor might have a negative effect on one person, but that same stressor would be positive on another.
Let’s take two personalities - Bob, who is an introvert and Jen, who is an extrovert. Both are new employees at a local TV station. They are the newest field reporters to join the team.
You know how this is going to play out, right?
Every day, the Bob dreads going to work. His fear of being on camera triggers a whole host of issues. For him, work is a weekly episodic state of mental anguish. The weekend is just barely long enough for him to recover from the work stress.
Jen, on the other hand, can’t wait to get to work. Although she is not immune to the stresses of reporting assignments and deadlines, she loves being in front of the camera and enjoys it. It’s fun for her. And in a way, she seems to relish in the stress to up her game.
You see? Same stressor but vastly different responses. Not all stress is the same and in fact, some stress can actually turn out to be good for you. It’s called ‘eustress.’
Eustress vs. Distress
You’ve probably never heard the term ‘eustress’ before, right? Not surprising really. ‘Stress’ gets all the fame, glory and attention.
The ‘eu’ is a Greek prefix for good or positive. So, in combination with ‘stress’, it means ‘good stress’. It’s pronounced, ‘yoo-stress’.
This doesn’t mean that there’s good stress and bad stress.
What it really means is the reaction to the stressor. Generally speaking, eustress is when there is a positive or beneficial reaction to the stressor and distress is when there is a negative reaction to the stressor.
What determines eustress (positive) from distress (negative) depends upon on how you respond to the situation.
Eustress is when you respond to stress as a way to increase attention and focus. It’s more along the lines of pressure rather than stress.
Distress is when you respond to stress negatively.
For Bob, being on camera is ‘distress’ but the same situation is ‘eustress’ for Jen. It’s the same stressor but with different results.
Eustress brings out the following qualities:
- Greater focus
- Higher performance
- More control
- Fun and exciting
Distress brings out the following qualities:
- Fear and anxiety
- Energy draining
- Low performance
- Lost and directionless
There are so many external stressors in our world. We’re all exposed to some amount of stress in one form or another on a daily basis. And for many of them, we have zero control over them. They will happen whether we want them to or not.
However, we can control what it means to us and how it affects us. We have the ability to choose how to respond to it. This is a skill that takes time to develop.
Let's use the office commute.
It’s an unavoidable daily ritual that nearly all of us have to do. We inch our way through bumper-to-bumper traffic, jockey for open spaces and seats on the train, shove our way through crowds, etc.
This is not an ideal way to start and end the workday.
Getting angry and cursing at the traffic and crowds will not make it go away. It would be like yelling at the sun for rising and setting every day. Pointless and it won’t make you feel any better.
But what if you could reframe your view of commuting?
Maybe, get your mind to think of the commute as a eustress activity. One that can be fun or relaxing rather than stressful. Instead of it being seen as dead time, it’s the perfect opportunity for downtime...to take care of yourself mentally and emotionally.
It could be your 2x daily dose of self-therapy.
Some of our fellow commuters do exactly this.
They see the commute as their own personal time, away from all the noises of home, family and work issues. It’s a valuable time slot for them to do what they enjoy.
🙂 Reading fav novels to whisk themselves away into another world
🙂 Listening to podcasts on their obsessive hobby (there’s a podcast for *everything*)
🙂 Watching or listening to a hilarious comedy show
🙂 Reflecting on thoughts and ideas while gazing out the bus or train window
🙂 Learning new business concepts from business books
🙂 Rocking out to the latest songs or classic hits
🙂 Meditating in deep thought (okay, maybe they’re sleeping)
Things like this can shift your mindset about traffic from being stressful to a fun and/or relaxing “me time” part of the day.
So, on your next commute, pay attention and look around. Take notice of those that are engaged and “in the moment” with whatever they are doing. Then, find and develop an activity that will make you more happy, relaxed, educated, etc. and you’ll be that much more prepared to take on the day’s work stress.
Sources Of Stress
For nearly all of us, we very rarely have a stress-free day. Every day, we’re surrounded by and filled with some level of stress. It’s unavoidable. These can come from physical, work, family and mental/emotional areas.
Here’s a rundown of some examples.
- Aches and pains from cold/flu
- Carpal tunnel nerve wrist pain
- Extreme weather swings
- Bodily injuries from attacks or accidents
- Lack of food and water
- Chronic illnesses or diseases
- Drug use and abuse
- Cold exposure frostbite
- Stomach or digestion troubles
- Head trauma concussions
- Tense neck and shoulders
- Muscle soreness from exercise
- Food allergies or poisoning
- Hangovers from drinking too much
- Sunburns from overexposure
- Blurred vision from screens
- Throbbing toothaches
- Job insecurity and lack of stability
- Multiple overlapping deadlines
- Overflowing inbox emails
- Ambiguous roles and responsibilities
- Traffic heavy commutes
- Presentations to upper management
- Slow or buggy software
- Demanding boss or management
- Lack of resources and support
- Extended working hours
- Confrontational and uncooperative coworkers
- Constant directional changes by executives
- Organizational “restructuring” or layoffs
- Low and uncompetitive salaries
- Excessive workloads
- Unrealistic requests and demands
- Raising infants and children
- Arguments with combative teens
- Extended family gatherings
- Caring for elderly parents
- Single parenthood
- Overscheduled activities
- Irresponsible relatives
- Children leaving home
- Preparing and cooking meals
- Chronically ill children or parents
- Strained marriage
- Alcohol or drug abuse in the family
- Death of spouse or family members
- Family drama and disputes
- Separation and divorce
- Mounting unpaid bills
- Financial struggles
- Unemployment and joblessness
- Conflicting religious or political beliefs
- Recurring anger or sadness from the past
- Moving to another home
- Retirement or not being able to
- Traffic or parking tickets
- Low or no social interactions
- Losing home to foreclosure
- Repeated worries about the future
- Witnessing terrorism and violence
- Heavy long-term mortgage
- Relationship friction and struggles
- Unsafe neighborhoods
- Changing jobs or careers
- Poor, insufficient or lack of housing
These are only some of the many stressors that we encounter on a day-to-day basis. Some may experience more in one area than in others. But in all, every one of us has to deal with stressors. However, in some situations, stress can actually be good for you.